Sunday, 29 March 2015

My Last Sunday ???

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Last night the clocks went forward one hour to begin British Summer Time.  However, the weather is far from summer like.  Arriving an hour later than normal, due to the wife's working hours, the temperature at the Marina was reading just 4°C with 100% cloud and a fairly strong wind blowing in from the Lough.  I stayed to 13.45 today and witnessed quite a number of light rain showers, though one just after 12pm was very squally.

There were no gulls perched at the Marina, although there were plenty of them flying about.  Some birds started to settle around 10.15 and I recorded my first Darvic at 10.20.  Over the course of my stay, never more than 40'ish perched at any one time, though there was a good turnover of gulls coming and going.  On a few occasions, all the gulls were gone.

Only 12 Darvics were recorded today, with   2AAV   being the last one spotted at 13.29.  The behaviour of the gulls appears different compared to the same time last winter.  On my visit on 23rd March last year, the gulls were coming in to feed and then collecting nesting material from across the river and then flying back out to the Lough, this is not happening at present.  

Also more of the gulls this week were more vocal and performing their courtship displays, again a little later than last year.  Even some of the migratory gulls were later on their departures.  It appears the gulls are running two to three weeks late with their activities than last year for some reason, but I've no idea why.

'One Leg' was present for a short time and there was no sign of any of the metal-ringed BHGs.  Today was supposed to be my last Sunday until the start of August, but I have not heard anything about survey work re-starting concerning Raptors.  I do know, that some organizations are waiting to find out what their budgets will be and I know there has been some serious Government cutbacks that will effect some.

Until I hear anything concrete, I shall continue my Sunday visits to the Marina.  If anything changes, then I'll finish with a short summary of this winter and a few suggestions for ringers and their organizations.

Black-headed Gulls Present
 2ACV   2BRA   2ABS   2AAT   2AAB   2AAP 

The Absentees
 T35J   2AAK   2AAC   2ABN   2AAD   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAL   2AAN   2ABL   2ABF 

With many of the gulls now away to their breeding grounds, I would be grateful to hear of any sightings at the Marina, from April to the end of July.  This will give me a clearer picture of gulls which are resident in the area. Contact me at


      Other Birds       
Gulls are definitely short in numbers.  The now regular pair of Herring Gulls were to be seen on and off all morning and are always quick to reappear when food is about.  At 11.45 a Juvenile Herring Gull arrived, the first one I've seen here all winter.  I'm guessing that this one is a 2nd winter or possibly a third winter gull in age, though I'm no expert on these.  It was showing some of the adult grey feathers on it's back.  It was still present when I left for home and was often to be seen forcing BHGs to drop their food.

Herring Gull  -  2nd/3rd Winter (?)

Only the one Common Gull this week, that being a 1st winter bird.  Looks as if these birds have headed off to their breeding grounds as well.  An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull appeared briefly on two occasions, but there was no way to tell if it was the same bird.

I noticed on my way into Antrim today, large numbers of LBBGs are now on the rooftops of the Tesco Distribution Warehouse at Kilbegs Business Park.  They nest on these rooftops, but I'm not sure how many pairs are involved.  I'm am curious about numbers and thinking about a couple of visits in mid to late May.  There are no easy vantage points to view the roof, so I'll have to figure something out - even if I have to climb trees.

Mute Swan numbers were quite good again today, with 15 birds at first, rising in numbers to a maximum of 22.  Quite a number of these did exit the river, but the only ring to be noted was   Z91982  .

I counted 18 Mallard on my arrival, but numbers never exceeded 40 and once again, no sign of the ringed drake from County Monaghan.  There was a greater number of males to females.

A pair of Oystercatchers arrived at the Marina at 12.16.  They flew around a couple of times, but decided not to land and flew on upriver.  I'm not 100% sure, but I think this may also be a first for me here, as I cannot recollect seeing Oystercatchers here before.

Only two Hooded Crows today, but not sure if they are the pair from across the river.  I was paying too much attention on the gulls to see where they went.  A maximum of 9 Jackdaws were counted.

Two male and one female Chaffinch and a male Pied Wagtail were the only small birds to be seen.

A male Sparrowhawk flew out of the woodland, past the cafe and headed towards Antrim Forum at 11.54.  As there were no gulls about at the time, he did not spook anything. 


      The Peoples Park, Ballymena       
After successfully scoping the ring number of the Lesser Black-backed Gull which recently arrived at the Peoples Park, I had no joy until Wednesday afternoon (25th), trying to obtain photos showing the number '7' on the metal-ring.  Attempts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning all failed, as the sun was shining off the ring or the number was not in the right position.  Once again persistence paid off and I was finally able to stitch the number together.

Initially, I was worried in case this pair of Lesser Black-backs would move on, but the opposite happened and they have took up residency of the Park's lake chasing off intruding LBBGs and the odd Herring Gull which would appear.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  -   GC27112  

Having already reported the gull to the British Trust for Ornithology, the Ringing Details arrived back to me on Friday (27th).  This female Lesser Black-backed Gull   GC27112   was ringed as an unsexed chick on the 1st July 2006, at Horse Island Nature Reserve, Ardrossan in Ayrshire, Scotland, by the Clyde Ringing Group.  The distance from Ardrossan to Ballymena is 125km (78 miles) south-west.

This is also my second gull which had been ringed by the Clyde Ringing Group.  The female Common Gull   EY64036  , which I have been keeping a track of at Antrim Marina over the last two winters, was also ringed by the Group.

As I have already mentioned, to my knowledge, LBBGs have never nested in Ballymena, so I shall try and keep track of this pair just in case they do nest.  The Peoples Park is less than 5 minutes drive from my house, so its very handy.   

Ardrossan To Ballymena (125km South-West)

At the same time on Wednesday afternoon, while obtaining photos of the LBBG, I just happened to be in the right place when a few Black-headed Gulls landed on the railing of the decking I was standing on.  One of these was   2BKP  , whose last two sightings and photos were on the water.  As I was preparing to take it's photo the Belgium rung   8T 30294   landed beside it.

With the photo taken, I was attempting to obtain a full picture of the two together, when to my dismay, all the gulls flew off.  That would have been a nice one to get - ah well, too bad.  No ringing details have been received from Belgium as yet, the wait continues.

Black-headed Gulls  -    2BKP   and Belgium   8T 30294 


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Finally - 2ADD...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
On my arrival at 8.55 this morning, the temperature was reading a very pleasant 7°C, with a 100% blue sky, sunny and a very slight breeze.  The temperature rose to 13°C by the time I left for home at 1pm and it stayed sunny throughout.

Around 30'ish BHGs were present at first and numbers probably never reached a 100 over my four hour stay.  The gulls were clearly making brief visits to the Marina and then flying back out to the Lough.  As it was such a nice day, there were plenty of people coming to feed the birds, which were all 'breaded out' by 10.45 and much lay about uneaten.  

The highlight of the day, was the overdue arrival of   2ADD  .  This adult male was ringed by Adam McClure on the 29th November 2013, at Carrickfergus on the east coast of County Antrim.  It was last re-sighted at 'Carrick' on the 15th January 2014 before I recorded it at Antrim Marina on the 16th February 2014.  I re-sighted   2ADD   on two further occasions before I completed last winter's visits on the 30th March.

On resuming my visits at Antrim Marina for the 2014/2015 winter season, I was to eventually record 27 of the 30 Darvics that I recorded the previous winter.  Of the 3 missing birds, the only one I had high hopes for   2ADD  , as the other two were youngsters and I reckoned, they failed to make it through the winter.

I enquired with Adam to see if any of these three had been seen since last summer.    2ADD   was the only one to be re-sighted, having returned to Carrickfergus and was recorded in October 2014.  Adam suggested that this gull could be wintering at 'Carrick' and breeding on Lough Neagh.

So there we have it,    2ADD   has returned to Antrim Marina/Lough Neagh for another breeding season, having completed it's 'long and hazardous' migration of about 27kms (17 miles) west. 

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2ADD

  2ADD's   arrival makes him my 34th Darvic rung Black-headed Gull to be recorded this winter at the Marina and was my 14th and final gull to be recorded today.  Of the 20 gulls absent today, the Polish breeding   2AAR   has gone, having had a 100% re-sighting record, since he arrived back at the Marina on the 19th September 2014, a total of 22 weeks.  The Lithuanian 'T35J' was also absent, has she finally decided to go as well.

One absentee, which was caught and ringed on the 1st February 2015, has been re-sighted.    2BRD   was reported to be at the lake at Lurgan Park in County Armagh, which is 23kms (17 miles) south of Antrim Marina.

The young 1st winter Swedish BHG   6438391   was sighted at 9.33 this morning.  No sign still of the Icelandic   571487  .  During the week, I received the ringing details of   EG55380  , it being named as a Common Gull and not a Black-headed Gull.  My photos clearly show it to be a BHG, so I have emailed the BTO again about this.

Whatever the outcome will be, I'll have to wait on.  According to the birds file,   EG55380   was ringed as a chick on the 22nd June 2005 on Big Copeland Island - Copeland Islands, County Down.  The distance being 45kms (28 miles) west and not the oldie I was hoping for.

'One Leg' had her usual chips, but was not as keen as she normally would be.  

On a couple of days this week in my home town of Ballymena, I have noticed loose flocks of 100 to 150 Black-headed Gulls flying north or north-eastwards, obviously on their migrations.

Black-headed Gulls Present Today
 2BRA   2AAH   2AAT   2ABS   2ACV   2ADJ   2ABL 

The Absentees
 T35J   2AAK   2AAA   2AAD   2ABK   2ABA   2AAB   2AAL   2AAN   2ABF 

Finishing at 1pm, I drove round to the main car park beside the Lough to scope the now disused Torpedo Platform.  The platform was a hive of activity with upwards of 200 Black-headed Gulls, seemingly claiming niches for their nests.

The Disused Torpedo Platform

The Torpedo Platform When Zoomed In  -  (Left, Middle and Right)


      Other Birds       
Today was very poor for other birds, with numbers of all species except Mute Swans well down.  Many birds will be dispersing with the oncoming breeding season.

Only two Common Gulls seen today, the first being a 1st winter bird at 10.55 and an adult showed up at 12.15, but not the Scottish-rung   EY64036  .  The now regular pair of Herring Gulls was present throughout my visit.  A single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull put in a brief appearance at 10.58 and an adult pair also put in a brief appearance just after 12.15.

I have complained on a number of occasions throughout this winter, about the lack of Mute Swans to be seen.  Today however, was an exception, with 17 present on my arrival.  Numbers slowly increased to 29 by 10.02 and a maximum of 31 by 11.09.  This is more like the numbers I was seeing throughout last winter.  My only problem today, was the fact that very few left the water.  Only two rings were noted, being   Z91982   and   W34158  .  Still no Whooper Swans, have been seen or heard.

Mallard numbers were also poor.  Around 30 on my arrival and the maximum never even reached the 50 mark.  No sign of the County Monaghan ringed male   4MN 0813  .

Again, no Moorhens, so I can only assume they have gone back up-river to nest.  The familiar pair of Pied Wagtails have also gone.

Only one Hooded Crow paid a visit at the Marina, while the pair in the woodland opposite were very busy nest-building.  There were even less Jackdaws than normal, with a maximum of 7 being counted.

One female and three male Chaffinches were the only small birds to be seen.


      The Peoples Park, Ballymena       
Last Sunday, I reported the sighting of a ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull and despite seeing it briefly, I was hoping it would return in order for me to obtain the ring number.

As the week progressed, it has turned out that this pair has claimed the lake for themselves and fending off all intruding large gulls.  After three attempts, I was successful in obtaining the ring number -   GC27112  , which is a British ring and I have now reported it to the British Trust for Ornithology.  This is my first ever sighting of a ringed Lesser Black-back and can't wait to get it's details.  I also noted it as a female.

Yesterday (Saturday 21st), I called in for a while to try and obtain more photos of the ring.  All week, I have had trouble with photos, as the sun keeps reflecting off the ring.  I still need the part of the ring showing the number '7'. 

Pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls at The Peoples Park
(Ringed Female on the Left)

The two ringed Black-headed Gulls, that I have recorded at the park were also seen yesterday.  These being the Belgium-rung   8T 30294   and one of Adam McClure's Study birds -   2BKP  .  The Belgium bird was spotted on the roof of the Pavilion and I am still waiting to hear back from Belgium with it's ringing details.

I last spotted   2BKP   on the 10th March while it was swimming on the Parks lake and successfully photographed the bird with the ring readable, though it was clearly in the water.  Having stated, that very few rings will ever be read under water, I did it again yesterday and managed another underwater sighting and photo.

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2BKP

Another first ever for me yesterday, was the sighting of a duck that I did not recognise.  Although I could not locate my bird guide at home, I presumed it might be a female Teal.  I emailed a photo of it to Adam, while reporting his BHG.  He identified it as a male Gadwall.  I'm not good with ducks, as I had never gone out of my way to look for them in the past.

Now that I'm 'Ring Watching', I am looking at the legs of every bird I see.

Male Gadwall in The Peoples Park


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Extra Weeks Needed ???

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
I arrived at Antrim Marina to a lovely spring morning, with the temperature sitting at 8°C, 90% blue sky and a light breeze.  During the morning, the wind-speed rose slightly and with gathering cloud, made it chillier.

An estimated 70 Black-headed Gulls were present and the first to be spotted was the Lithuanian 'T35J'.  Being well overdue to depart for the summer, I kept a close eye on it, in case it was sick or injured.  Although it was present for most of the morning, it is totally healthy looking.

Several birds which were absent last week, showed up today.  I only planned for another two Sunday visits, but the way things are sitting at the minute, its going to be hard to determine departure dates.  I might have to continue for another couple of weeks.

Only two BHGs are long term absentees,    2AAJ   which we know has been seen at Seahouses in England and   2AAL    2AAL   was last seen on the 11th January this year and last sighting of it last winter, was on the 23rd February.  When I commenced this winter's Ring-Watching back in August, I recorded   2AAL   on my first visit and this gull was suffering the recent loss of an eye.  Whether it has migrated or succumbed to its disability remains to be determined.

'One Leg' was present today and received her usual feed of chips from the car window.  One of last summers youngsters has cottoned on to this routine.  Last Sunday and now today, it stands on the bonnet of my car and waits for me to reach out to it with chips.

The Swedish-rung youngster   6438391   was spotted at 10.27 and   EG55380   was sighted four minutes later.  I have received a reply from the British Trust for Ornithology concerning this one.  There is a small problem with this gull, as it was recorded as being a Common Gull.  It took a year to complete this BHGs ring number and I will now have to wait a little longer to obtain it's ringing details.  Once again, I'm so glad to have full photos of the gull and its ring, as it fully confirms the sighting.

All morning I kept re-sighting   EG55380  , as I am also looking out for the Icelandic-rung   571487  , which again failed to show up.  Time is running out in my hope of re-sighting the other Icelandic Black-headed Gull   585017   which I recorded last winter and the remaining gull in my wishlist on the sidebar.

The number of BHGs reached an estimated 200 birds between 11.00 and 12.00.  When I departed for home at 1pm, only 50 or so were still present.  Of the 33 Darvic-rung BHGs recorded this winter, 20 were re-sighted today and 13 were absent.     

Black-headed Gulls Present
 T35J   2AAR   2BRA   2AAA   2ABP   2ABK   2ABF   2AAT   2ABS   2AFD 

Today's Absentees
 2AAP   2AAK   2AAC   2AAD   2ABA   2AAL   2AAS 

Black-headed Gull  -  EG55380

1st Winter Black-headed Gull  -  Sweden 6438391

Peoples Park, Ballymena
On Tuesday 10th March, I called into my local Park in Ballymena to check on the gulls for rings.  To my surprise, I spotted the Belgium-ringed Black-headed Gull   8T 30294   on the roof of the Pavilion, having failed to locate it on my previous three visits.  At least it's still about.  I have not received a reply from Belgium with the ringing details for this bird - the wait continues.

Another surprise was the re-sighting of one of Adam McClure's study birds BHG   2BKP  .  I am glad to see that it is still about having last sighted it on the 20th February 2015.  I actually spotted it on the water, noticing the Orange Darvic ring.  Although I did not see the number on the ring, I quickly started taking photos of the bird.  When I got home and downloaded the photos onto the computer, only one showed   2BKP   clearly.

I have stated in the past just how awkward it is to watch the gulls in this park, as many of them just bob about on the lake and the few that rest on nearby rooftops are hard to watch clearly.  Keeping an eye on the gulls that swim fairly close to me has paid off.  Very few rings will ever be read underwater.

1st Winter Black-headed Gull -    2BKP   -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena  (10 Mar 2015)

I called into The Peoples Park again yesterday (Saturday 14th March).  There was no sign of the above mentioned BHGs, but I spotted my first two Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the lake.  During the winter months, Lesser Black Backs are rarely seen in Ballymena.  I believe that most of the Northern Ireland birds migrate to Southern Europe during the winter.  I started to notice LBBGs in the town a couple of weeks ago and more are appearing all the time.

As far as I know, these birds have not bred in Ballymena as yet, but I reckon that it is only a matter of time before they start nesting on rooftops.  Every summer seems to herald more and more of these gulls.

A second pair of LBBGs landed on the lake close to the first pair shortly after I arrived.  They remained on the water for about 20 minutes before they all took to the air.  One pair flew off south towards the town and the second pair landed on the roof of the Pavilion.  A quick look at the legs, revealed one of the birds had a metal-ring.  I only managed a few photos when they flew off - also leaving towards the town.

The photos were of little use to me, as I could not get any useful details on the ring.  I shall be keeping a close watch now to see if these two will return again and the chase will be on for the ring number. 

Ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull  -  The Peoples Park, Ballymena.

      Other Birds       
Common Gulls were still low in numbers and the first one to be spotted was at 10.03 this being the Scottish-rung   EY64036  .  This one has been absent over the last three weeks and at one stage I noticed it was limping slightly.  If it has been injured, that might explain it's recent absence.  A maximum of 4 adults and 3x1st winter youngsters were noted.  The Herring Gull pair are now regulars and appeared on and off all morning.  An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a single 1st winter/juvenile appeared just briefly very late in the morning.

Common Gull  -  EY64036

Mute Swan numbers were good today with 15 on my arrival and pairs arriving from upriver and from the Lough, took the total to 19.  Only 3 rings were noted on birds that exited the water and these were the usual   Z91981  ,   Z91982   and   W34158  .

Less than 30 Mallard, grew in numbers, but I doubt if numbers exceeded 50 at maximum.  The male County Monaghan Mallard   4MN 0813   was sighted at 11.14.  He was absent last week and his mate was not with him this today.  Despite this initial sighting, he never appeared again - is his mate on eggs?

The pair of Moorhens were also absent today, perhaps they are in breeding mode as well.  There are no likely nesting places at the Marina, although there is riverbank vegetation just a short distance upriver.

A female Buzzard flew over the Marina at 11.22 heading towards the golf course.  It was high enough in the sky and did not alarm any of the birds around the Marina.

3 Hooded Crows and 9 Jackdaws were maximum counts.  A pair of Hooded Crows across the river in the woodland, were seen carrying sticks on a few occasions - so definitely nest-building.

A single male Pied Wagtail and 2 male Chaffinches were the only small birds to be seen.


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Spring Is In The Air...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
On my arrival today, the temperature was reading 7°C, with almost 100% cloudy sky and a fairly strong north-westerly wind blowing in from the Lough, although it did not feel cold.  A few heavy showers of rain followed, before the sky broke and the sun appeared.

No gulls of any species were perched, but some were arriving in as I parked the car.  Only 30 to 40 BHGs were present by 09.30 and the total never exceeded 100.  All the birds at the Marina were 'breaded out' by 11.00 and an unbelievable amount of uneaten bread was lying on the ground or floating on the river.  Yet, a steady stream of visitors kept arriving to feed the ducks and throwing bread aimlessly at them, though they had already had their fill.

From 11.00 onwards, not one gull was to be seen perched and from time to time, small batches would fly in and take the bread from the river and fly off again.

It turned out to be a poor day for recording ringed birds.  Of 33 Darvics recorded this winter, only 14 were re-sighted today.  To my surprise 'T35J' is still present and well over-due to leave for Lithuania.  It's hard to explain why so many BHGs were absent today.  A possible reason could be the milder weather, which is helping the birds find natural food.

Many of the resident birds were also absent today.  I drove round to the main car park beside the Lough and scoped the disused Torpedo Platform where many BHGs nest during the summer.  There were easily 150 gulls spread across the top of it.  Perhaps, some of my missing birds are there, claiming some real-estate for their nests.

Also missing today, was the young Swedish BHG   6438391  , which has been ever present over the last 8 weeks.  Still no sign of the the Icelandic   571487   or the BHG I recorded last week   EG55380  .  'One Leg' was present and this week I did not forget the chips, to her delight.

Another BHG which I thought would have turned up by now is   2ADD  .  We suspect it nests on Lough Neagh and winter's at Carrickfergus, which is not too far away.  It appeared here on the 16th February last year, so is well overdue. 

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2AAT

Black-headed Gull  -  Orange 2BRA

Black-headed Gulls Sighted Today
 2BRA   2AAT   T35J   2ABN   2AAP   2ACV   2ABP 

Today's Absentees
 2AAK   2AAA   2AAC   2AAD   2ADJ   2ABA   2AAL   2AAF   2AAN   2ABF 

No News on Ringing Details
As yet, I have not received any ring details for the Belgium BHG or the BHG I recorded at Antrim Marina last week.  During the week, I did some research on the British Trust for Ornithology's - Online Ringing Reports.  Barring any updates to be added, it seems that my gull is the first to be recorded in Northern Ireland from Belgium or vice-versa.

This makes me pleased with the effort I put in, to obtain photos of this bird and its metal-ring.  I have been back to The Peoples Park in Ballymena three times, since completing my set of photos and have not seen this bird since.

Last Sunday's Black-headed Gull gave me a lot of pleasure.  This one got by me last winter.  I only saw it for a short time when it flew off and I had failed to get the two letters on the ring.  Mark Grantham from the BTO stated there was at least two 55380's on the computer (ET & EW) and there could be more on paper.

To actually see this bird again last Sunday and obtain the full ring number and a complete set of photos was to me, superb.  It took me from around 10.30 to 12.45 to scope the full number, with the number '3' being the last digit needed.  I couldn't rely on the photos for the full number, but did have it all, when these were checked.

EG55380 makes this bird quite old.  I was actually ringing Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Merlins with 'EK' rings in 1985.  Some ringers take a while to get through a string of rings after purchase, maybe a few years.  However, the oldest known Black-headed Gull known through the BTO Ringing Scheme, is 29 years and 3 months and the oldest ever recorded in Northern Ireland is 17 years.  It would be fantastic to beat one or both of these records. 

Update On Yellow   260D  
Yesterday (Saturday 7th), I drove down to the coastal village of Glenarm, to check on the Black-headed Gull from Lough Mask in County Mayo.  To my delight, it was still present, though I had to wait a while before it showed up.  Despite having bread, to lure the gulls towards me, many of them were just not interested including   260D  .

I first sighted this gull on the 6th January 2015 at Glenarm and decided to check for this bird monthly.  It was still at Glenarm on the 7th February and yesterday.  I observed it within a small group of about 30 BHG's & 2 Common Gulls.  They were quite a distance from me, so I had to zoom in from a long way to get the photo.  I'll check for it at the start of April, to see if it is still about.

Black-headed Gull  -  Yellow 260D

While in Glenarm, I noticed a number of Turnstones feeding on the shoreline underneath the seafront car park.  I took a photo of one probing for insects amongst the pebbles.



      Other Birds       
As with last week, Common Gulls were scarce.  A single 1st winter bird appeared at 09.21, followed by 2 adults at 11.20.  One of these adults was small and dainty, much like the Scottish-rung   EY64036  .  As it never landed onto anything, I could not confirm it.  Again this week, a pair of Herring Gulls appeared from time to time, throughout my visit.  A single adult and two juvenile/1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gulls also appeared briefly.

12 Mute Swans were joined by a another pair coming in from the Lough.  Of the eight that came out to be fed, three were ringed -   W34158  ,   Z91981   and   Z91982  .  Overall, swan numbers have been disappointing this winter and to date only five of the 10 ringed birds that were here last year, have been recorded.  The one addition was   W35157  , which has only put in the one appearance.  It has also dawned on me, that I have not seen or heard any Whooper Swans either this winter.

Around 40 Mallard grew in numbers to around 60 before decreasing to about 30 by the time I left for home.  No sign today of the County Monaghan rung male   4MN 0813  .  A few Mallards could be seen across the river on the wooded edge of Antrim Boat Club.  It may well be likely that some females could already be sitting on eggs in the undergrowth over there.

At 10.15, a Buzzard circled above the Marina for a short time and could be heard mewing, before flying over the woodland opposite and out of sight.

The pair of Moorhens potted about all day as usual.  Only the two Hooded Crows for a while today and across the river a pair were moving about the trees - probably nest-building.  Jackdaw numbers were also down, with a max of six being counted.  A single Magpie went away stuffed with bread bulging from its beak.

4 Chaffinches and a pair of Pied Wagtails were the only small birds to be seen on my side of the river.  The woodland opposite was full of song from various small species - spring is now in the air.


Sunday, 1 March 2015

They Don't All Escape...

      Today's Black-headed Gulls       
Arriving at Antrim Marina today, the temperature reading 6°C, 90% cloudy sky and quite a strong wind blowing in from the Lough.  As the morning wore on, the wind got stronger and there were a few showers of rain as well.

An estimated 70 to 80 BHGs were standing about on the ground, avoiding the railings due to the wind strength.  Numbers rose to 150 to 200 birds between 11 & 12.00 and then dwindled to about 60 by the time I left for home at 1pm.

33 Darvic-rung birds have been recorded so far this winter and 26 of these birds were re-sighted today.  They included 8 birds that were absent last week and to my surprise 'T35J', whose absence led me to believe she may have started her journey back to Lithuania.

The young Swedish gull   6438391   is still present and now behaves like a bird that been here all its life and not like the timid gull it once was.  'One Leg' was also present and now starting to sport a 'blackening head'.  I forgot to bring food with me this morning, so she had to miss out on her feed.  Still no sign of the Icelandic-rung gull   571487  .

The highlight of the day, was the re-sighting of a BHG, whose full ring number I failed to obtain last winter.

BHGs Present Today
 2ABA   2AAT   2ACV   2BRC   2AAF   2ABK   2ABP   2AAP   2AAN 

The Absentees
 2AAD   2AAB   2AAL   2AAJ   2ADV   2BRD   2APT 

They Don't All Escape
On the 23rd February last year, I recorded a Black-headed Gull bearing an upside-down, BTO metal-ring, on it's right leg.  Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain the two letters that preceded the numbers 55380.  However, I reported the bird to the British Trust for Ornithology in the hope no two BHG's would have the same number.

Mark Grantham replied and stated that at least two had the same number.  ET55380 from County Durham and EW55380 from Bedfordshire, England.  Due to this, the BTO were unable to except the sighting of my bird.

Today at the Marina, I spotted a BHG with an upside-down BTO metal-ring at approximately 10.30.  As always, with metal rings, the chase was on for the number and photos.  On getting home and after downloading the photos, I had successfully obtained the whole number.

I knew straight away, the number was familiar and looked up last year's sighting.  I was right, it was the same number '55380' on the upside-down ring.  The big surprise was the letters - 'EG'.  I strongly believe, I have the same bird from last year and going by the letters, it could be quite old.  I have now reported the gull to the BTO and now eagerly await a reply and also to see if they will now except last winter's sighting.

I have had a number of metal-ringed gulls which gets by me, due to the problem of getting close enough to read them or obtain photos.  I've stated before, that these are the 'icing on the cake' when got, but would never have dreamed of getting one a year later.  Isn't it great, to be a 'Ring Watcher'.

Black-headed Gull - London  EG55380   (It is Old Looking)

The Ring  -  London EG55380

Belgium BHG in Ballymena
Last Sunday, I reported my sighting of a Belgium BHG, bearing a metal-ring in my home town of Ballymena.  I was only able to ascertain 5 of the numbers on the ring, before it joined a group of gulls to presumably fly off to it's roost for the night.  I tried again on the next day - Saturday - to obtain the full Ring No.  After three visits during the course of the day, including being twice interrupted by heavy showers of snow, I had no luck.

Sunday was my normal day at Antrim Marina and then preparing my Blog to try and get it published online for 9pm.  It was Monday when I had another go with this Belgium bird.  Success at last, I had finally obtained the missing two numbers - the completed ring reading as 8T 30294.  Unfortunately, due to the sun on the wet tarmac, the photos I took were very poor.

After taking 72 photos on two visits on Tuesday, not one contained the part of the ring number that I wanted - '8T'.  It also dawned on me that I did not have any of the bird itself.  So, it was back again on Wednesday morning.  Another 54 photos were taken and hooray, three of them had the inscription '8T' and I also had a few decent ones of the gull itself.

At this time of the year, when quite a few of these gulls have already started on their migrations, it is vital to obtain results as quickly as possible, before the birds move on.  I have now reported the gull online and await the ringing details from Belgium.  According to Graham Prole, the Belgium's are a bit on the slow side with their processing, so I might have to wait a while to obtain the ringing information.

As I have stated before, The Peoples Park in Ballymena, is not an easy place to work on gulls, with many of the birds unapproachable.  In a way, I was quite lucky with this one, as it seemed to be fairly comfortable by my close attention to it, which definitely helped me.  

Black-headed Gull - Belgium (Brussels 8T 30294)

Ring Number - Brussels 8T 30294

Update on   2AAJ  
Last Sunday, I also reported on the re-sighting of one of The Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Study birds -   2AAJ  .  It was spotted by Gary Woodburn on the 11th February at Seahouses, Northumberland, England, having last been seen at Antrim Marina on the 18th January.  Gary also recorded this bird at Seahouses on the 20th February last year, confirming my prediction that they will undertake the same migration routes.

However, another re-sighting has been reported to Adam, via the British Trust for Ornithology.    2AAJ   had been sighted four days earlier at Seahouses by a Neil Cooper on the 7th February.  Aah, if only someone can now spot it at a breeding colony during the Summer!

I received an email yesterday (Saturday 28th) from Gary Woodburn, to let me know that   2AAJ   was still present at Seahouses, which means it has stayed 'put' there for a full three weeks now.  Thanks Gary for the update.


      Other Birds       
Common Gull numbers were slightly up this week.  Every so often, I do a head count of birds present at any one time.  The best I got today was 2 adults and 3 1st winter birds.  Again, there was a no show by the Scottish-rung   EY64036  .  A pair of Herring Gulls appeared on and off throughout the morning.  A Single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull arrived at 09.41 and a juvenile 1st winter bird appeared at 12.25.

A Cormorant had only hopped out of the river to dry its wings and had to hop back in moments later when approached by walkers.

10 Mute Swans were later joined by another pair and of the 8 that left the water,   W34158   was the only ringed bird.  Around 50 Mallard were present first thing, with numbers peaking at about 80.  The male County Monaghan Mallard   4MN 0813   was sighted at 09.50.  The usual pair of Moorhen just potted about as normal.

5 Hooded Crows and 11 Jackdaws were maximum counts.  The only small birds to be seen were a pair of Pied Wagtails and 4 Chaffinches.

Pied Wagtail